Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Merrell Barefoot Trail Glove: First Impressions (Literally)

This is not me.
I've been shying away from going out running of late, because, primarily, I've not had the right shoes for the job.  My New Balance MT100 and 101s have been gathering dust after the job they did on my weak knee in September, and the Flow Trek's I ordered were stuck on backorder. 

Secondarily, I've just not been motivated, which is always a problem.

But the recent arrival of the Trail Glove (TG) has inspired me.

I wore them to the gym on Monday, and confirmed that I'd rather be wearing my Vibrams.  But they weren't horrible, and to judge from the reaction of the majority of the folks in my gym who haven't been inspired to buy Vibrams, Merrell is going to sell a lot of these.

I've been living in CT on and off since 1973.  This is, hands down, the snowiest winter I recall.  Both in terms of the amount of snow we've got, and the length of time it's remained on the ground.  The photo was sent to me by Carl Asker, local ultrarunner and Pose coach, to taunt me. ;)  It's -9F in that picture, btw, and he's wearing Inov-8's X-Talon 190.  We now have more snow than in this photo.

So, I finally decided to man up and take my dog for a run in the snow, wearing my new shoes.  I did the 4-mile loop from my house, which includes about a mile of trail running. 

Trail Glove Side Ventilation
I wore heavy, knee-high Patagonia socks under the TGs, and the shoes really excelled.  The 2 miles to the trail section was perfectly servicable in the TGs, my feet stayed perfectly warm, and the ventilation was noticable.  It was 25F, so not really cold, but enough to notice the weather.  The TGs have a big, well ventilated window over the toes, but only holes throught the sides, so the toes were cool at first, but warmed up and were fine.  My feet were not cold at any time, which was impressive, as you will soon see.

We got about 3 inches of snow yesterday, so I was hoping that the would be mostly packed down, with only a few inches of new snow.  Unfortunately this was only the case at the beginning.  My dog and I soon wound up slogging through knee-high snow untracked except by a nordic skiier, which served only to remind me why post-holing through the snow stinks.  Oh, the things I do for barefoot-style running.  Or slogging, in this case.  I was no longer running at this point, but nevertheless my feet were never cold, which is a testament to both the Merrells, since the under-foot insulation was perfectly adequate; and to the Patagonia socks.  The Merrells did shed snow very well, and I wound up with balls of snow stuck to my ankles, but little on the shoes.

They did far better under these conditions than they had any right to.

Trail Glove Toe Cleats
The traction was excellent all along, and I never slipped once, despite running up and down hills, and over ice, snow, and slush.  The dog slipped once, but I did not.  Again, better performance then I expected.  I'll note that the Vibram-Trek-style toe cleats (I don't know how else to describe them) worked terrific in the snow, I never slipped back when going up hill.  This bodes well, I think, for their performance in mud, although they're not as cleated as Carl's shoes.

So for a first run, I have to say they were really terrific.  Vibram and Merrell clearly put a great deal of thought into these shoes, and the fit well into a niche above the KSO Trek or Trek Sport.  They really should be called the Trail Mitten, however, for obvious reasons.  As an introductory fully-barefoot-style running shoe, I expect these will do extremely well, and hopefully will show New Balance and Inov-8 how a barefoot-style shoe should be done, and that there is a market for such a shoe.

Bravo.

My only concern with these shoes is that they may not be well-ventilated enough for summer-time running.

P.S.  Indeed, it turned out to be the snowiest winter in CT history.